What I bought - 4 January 2012

It may, then, be said with truth that the Hebrews were the first to discover the meaning of history as the epiphany of God. (Mircea Eliade, from The Myth Of The Eternal Return)

Avengers Academy #24 ("Family") by Christos Gage (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Cory Hamscher (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Let's check out that cover for a second. I know comic book covers are done some months in advance and the artist doesn't always know exactly what's going on in the issue, so the fact that Julie Powers in on this cover but doesn't appear in the book doesn't bother me. What I love, however, is the text: "Coeds vs. Campus Creature!" I love cover text and wish more comics used it, but I'm also strangely fascinated by the word "coed." It seems so anachronistic, especially given some figures recently that indicate that women are far outpacing men in college attendance. "Coed" seems like a word out of the 1950s, yet it's still being used. And, of course, there's the idea of "coeds" as somehow sexy teens, which makes its use on a comic book that's ostensibly "all-ages" a bit weird. I know it's supposed to have a "1950s horror/sci-fi" vibe to it, so the word makes perfect sense, but I still find it amusing.

Tom Grummett takes over on this arc, and speaking of sexy, while reading this I realized why Grummett always kind of freaks me out. He's a good artist, don't get me wrong, but something about his art always made me feel a bit off. He draws very nice-looking women, but they always seem a bit younger than they should be, and because superhero costumes tend to be so skin-tight, they often look nekkid. Consider White Tiger - I guess she's supposed to be a teenager, but Grummett draws her really sexy, and it's jarring. Even Tigra looks younger than she's usually portrayed. I know saying that superhero artists are drawing women to look sexy sounds really, really stupid on my part, but with some, even if the women being drawn are 15 or 16, the artists make them look older. Grummett seems to go the opposite way, and it's kind of weird. I'm sure it's just me, but why else do you read this except to watch these posts turn into train wrecks?

Oh, and Reptil seems like a real dick in this comic. I know he's supposed to be, but leading your teammates to their doom to save some theoretical daughter seems wildly stupid and extremely douchey. Yes, he doesn't stay a dick, but man! - I know that Gage is trying to show these kids as just that, kids, but as Humberto's brain is an adult's ... it just seems like he's a tool. Plus, I love how superpeople in comics STILL trust the villain. HE'S THE GODDAMNED VILLAIN!!!!! It's like my rule if I had any kind of power and lived in the Marvel Universe: If I ever saw Loki, I'd bash his head in even before he could open his mouth, even if he was just chillaxing on a park bench eating a scone (you know Loki totally does this). HE'S MOTHERFUCKING LOKI!!!! If he told me the sky was blue I'd think he's lying. I don't care if you want your nonexistent child to be born - the villain is the villain. And it's not like he's a villain who looks like, I don't know, this guy. He looks really villainous. MAYBE BECAUSE HE'S THE VILLAIN!!!! Sheesh, Reptil. Buy a clue, why don't you.

Still, Avengers Academy keeps things moving along, and it's an enjoyable superhero comic. Gage does a nice job once the villain (I'm still not revealing who it is) gets to White Tiger, because she's a bit different than he expected, and it's neat how Reptil figures out that maybe helping a villain isn't the smartest play in the world. Nice of him to come to that conclusion before it was too late.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Cyclops #8 (of eight) ("The Warrior Part Two") by Matz (writer/translator), Gaël de Meyere (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.95, 26 pgs, FC, Archaia.

As disappointed as I am with the past few issues of Cyclops, at least Matz doesn't take the easy way out with the conclusion. It's still not the greatest ending - we can kind of see it coming, especially when Anderson starts taunting Doug - but it's not the easy way, and I appreciate that. There were so many interesting ways the book could have gone - Doug, if you'll recall, was kind of a company man when the book began, and it's a shame he became a real-life hero so easily - so the fact that Matz redeems it a bit at the end isn't quite enough. Even at eight issues, it really does feel like it could have used a bit more fleshing out - Multicorps, Doug's employer, is beset by legal troubles following last issue's revelations a bit too easily, and Doug, Anderson, and the rest go through their plot cycle a bit too quickly. Ten issues might have been a better fit, because Matz could have done a bit more with Doug's moral ambiguity and what happens when the public learns that Multicorps isn't doing things all that legally. Instead, Matz kept this book plot-driven, and when the plot isn't all that interesting (wait, a corporation is creating international tensions to make money off of them! stop the presses!), the other things need to step up. Matz, of course, worked on The Killer, which was a phenomenal comic mainly because he didn't focus as much on the machinations of the plot and concentrated instead on the killer and his relationships with people. The plot was secondary, so it seemed better and didn't interfere with the good stuff as much.

Cyclops started fairly well, and I don't know if Jacamon's departure hurt it too much. I've written before that de Meyere's more cartoony art doesn't feel right for the book, but it's not as if it's terrible, either. I honestly think it's a question of a writer thinking he had a great plot and not taking the time to make sure the rest of the book was on par with it. Beats me. All I know is that it doesn't really work, even with an ending that's more inspired than what we've seen over the past 3-4 issues.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fatale #1 (of 6) ("Death Chases Me") by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $3.50, 27 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm not entirely sure why this isn't a Marvel/Icon book. It's Brubaker and Phillips, so it looks and reads like Criminal and Incognito. I really want to read all sorts of hidden meanings into why this is Image instead of Marvel: Did Marvel not want to publish yet another Jess Nevins essay but Brubaker insisted? Did Phillips insult Joey Q's baseball cap collection? Is Icon only publishing schlock by Mark Millar these days? THE MIND REELS!!!!!

Okay, the mind doesn't reel too much. I don't care who publishes this - it's another noirish kind of story by Brubillips, so of course it's awesome! What are you doing still reading this instead of buying it? Let's see - old man/hack novelist dies; old man's godson shows up at the funeral and meets a hot chick about whom he can't stop thinking; man discovers old manuscript in godfather's stuff; weird men come to kill man; hot chick rescues him but man ends up in the hospital; in flashback to 1956 we see same woman meeting hack novelist (who is not yet a hack novelist but will be soon); woman is sleeping with crooked cop who's investigating a ritualistic murder; crooked cop remembers weird shit from the war; crooked cop wants to know why woman doesn't age; future hack novelist also can't stop thinking about woman. It's demon noir, man - I guess somebody's trying to call up something from the depths of hell, and we're just going to have to wait to see what's what!

I don't know. As Brubaker points out in the back of the book, he and Phillips have been doing this shit since Gotham Noir, so if you don't know what's going on with it, you're probably not going to start now. It's three creators (Stewart's colors are, well, Stewart's colors, and considering how good he is, that's all you need to know) working at the tops of their games, so I really can't write much except check it the fuck out. You know you want to!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Li'l Depressed Boy #8 ("In a World of Ghosts ...") by S. Steven Struble (writer/colorist/letterer) and Sina Grace (artist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Struble brings LDB back to town and gives him a pseudo-confrontation with Jazz, and I'm glad the "arc" - such as it is - has ended, because I think taking LDB out of town was a bit of a mistake. Not getting him out of town, per se, but making his journey so long - the book lost some of the nice momentum it built up in the first few issues. The delays haven't helped, of course, but it's more that LDB was really depressed throughout this arc, and that does get a bit ponderous. I don't have a problem with him being depressed (it's right there in his name!!!!), but the book worked better when he had reasons not to be depressed but he was still mopey. It was a weird dichotomy, but it worked. The past few issues, he's just been depressed for a somewhat good reason (it's not like he ever asked Jazz out or anything, so why should she think of him as a boyfriend?), and it hasn't been as interesting.

But in this issue he at least gets to see Jazz, and Struble does a nice job with their conversation, because it gets back to what made the book interesting in the first place - nothing real gets said, but you can feel it beneath the banal dialogue. Struble even messes with us when Jazz apologizes ... but she's not apologizing for breaking LDB's heart, because she still doesn't know she did. So it's a nice ending to the arc, even if the arc went on too long.

Next issue LDB starts looking for a job, and from the solicits, he meets another girl, so I have some confidence that the book will get back on track. I hope it does - it's an oddball comic, and I appreciate that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Shinku #4 ("Throne of Blood Part Four") by Ron Marz (writer), Lee Moder (penciler), Matthew Waite (inker), Michael Atiyeh (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I think there's a trade coming out collecting the first four issues of Shinku, which makes no sense because it doesn't really collect an entire arc. I can't remember, but I thought I saw a trade offered. Maybe it collects the first five issues. Beats me. Marz, in case you haven't noticed, has stopped by here a few times - maybe he can explain!

Anyway, after last issue, which left our heroine in a bit of a state, this issue focuses mainly on Davis and Oshima, who ride to her rescue. As usual, the violent scenes are really, really violent (which is awesome), but once the two get Shinku out of danger, the book slows down and we get some nice characterization of the two of them. Marz is doing a nice job showing that Davis is still really not comfortable with this world he's been thrust into, and he doesn't even like Shinku all that much, but she did save his life, so he's trying to do right by her. It's a nice relationship, because it's not built on friendship or even any kind of affection, but duty. That will make it fascinating (I hope) to see how it develops between the two, because it could go anywhere.

Of course, being Shinku, there's full frontal nudity and plenty of bloodletting, but Moder is doing his usual stellar job and Marz is keeping things nice and balanced now that he's gotten over the initial ultra-violence of the first two issues. Marz knows that the violence can become boring, so he's shifting gears fairly effectively. Of course, that doesn't stop him from ending the book with the promise of more violence, but hey! that's the way it is, man!

If you haven't been getting this in single issues, I encourage you to check out the trade, if it indeed is coming out before the next issue. This is a very cool comic, and I'm very keen to keep reading it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thunderbolts #168 ("The Word at the Jilted Cage ...") by Jeff Parker (writer), Matthew Southworth (artist), Frank Martin, Jr. (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

As you know, a man of my intellect is often flummoxed. Case in point: Thunderbolts #168. In the credits, Eric Canete is listed for "Luke Cage recap art." I thought that meant that the issue would have Canete's art mixed in with Southworth's, who's drawing the main story. But from what I can tell, it simply means that Canete drew the Luke Cage on the actual recap page, and Southworth drew the rest of the issue. It certainly looks that way. So why on earth did Canete draw one picture of Luke Cage and why did Marvel use it? I assume they had to pay him for it, and that seems weird to pay a dude for, basically, a commission. The background on the recap page looks like stuff from earlier issues, so it's not like Canete drew an entire page - he drew only the Luke Cage picture. Plus, and this pains me to write as someone who's a fan of Eric Canete's art, that drawing of Luke Cage is terrible. Seriously: Cage looks like an old man - his breasts are slumping down onto his beer belly, his neck is bigger than his head, his arm is wider than his head ... it's just butt-ugly. I like Canete's art, but man, that drawing!

Anyway, this is a pretty interesting issue of Thunderbolts, because it's as if Parker said to himself, "Punks like that Burgas fella think I'm just writing a straightforward superhero comic? I'll show them that I can be all weird and shit too!" (Parker totally cares what I think of his writing, don't you know.) Cage is poisoned in this issue by Mr. Fear, and it causes him to have all sorts of hallucinations, some of them actually happening (how does he know what those F.A.C.T. people are saying?) and some not. Parker keeps it ambiguous, which is fine, and he also manages to bring it all back around to the "Thunderbolts Trapped in Time" story that he's been spinning. It's a pretty neat issue. Oh, and Cage goes to Harrisburg, PA, where he wears a cowboy hat, so there's that.

Southworth does a nice job with the art - he does some interesting things with the panel borders when Luke is hallucinating, and the double-page spreads when Luke gets angry at the end of the issue is very nice, flowing well even though Southworth gives us a lot of oddly-shaped panels. Martin isn't the flashiest colorist, but he does well with this issue, switching well between Luke's hallucinations and the snowy conversation between Songbird, Mach V, and the F.A.C.T. people - Luke's pages are predominantly red (with some nice touches of electric blue), while the snow scenes are blue-based with Songbird's pink aura providing that contrast. It's a nice-looking issue in addition to being a well-written one.

Thunderbolts continues to mosey right along nicely. It's always nice when that happens!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zorro Rides Again #7 (of 12) by Matt Wagner (writer), John K. Snyder III (artist), Sendol Studios (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

So here's why I have an issue with some comic book artists. Many comic book artists are good at their jobs and can tell a story and the books they work on are fine. For the first six issues of Zorro Rides Again, we had that with Esteve Polls. There's nothing wrong with Polls - he just drew the first issue of Dynamite's new Lone Ranger series, and it's fine - but his art is just kind of there. He gives us pretty much a straightforward recitation of the script, as far as I can tell, and it's pleasant enough to look at. But Polls, so far, doesn't have any flair. He doesn't stand out in a crowd of artists, and in a comic book world where a great deal of art is bland, that's too bad. I mean, part of the problem I had with the DCnU first issues wasn't that the art was bad, but that it was bland. As much as I hate Rob Liefeld, the dude's art has flair. It's shitty flair, but it's something. Which brings us to the sadly neglected John K. Snyder III, whose name I haven't seen on a comic in years. Snyder drew some of Wagner's Grendel comics back in the day, and he drew Wagner's Doctor Mid-Nite mini-series in the late 1990s. He also drew Mister E, the mini-series from DC that spun out of The Books of Magic. But those were a long time ago, and he seems to have been MIA for a decade or so. Snyder isn't the greatest artist, but he's pretty good, and he has a nice visual style that makes any book he's working on more interesting. In much the same way that Francesco Francavilla made his two Zorro arcs a while back far more visually interesting than the middle arc, so too does Snyder immediately make this comic more interesting to look at. His characters have harder edges, so while they're not as "realistic," they also look more tempered by the rough environment of 17th-century California. Snyder has always added interesting architecture/designed items to his panels, and his razor-sharp edges make, for instance, the chandelier hanging in the room where the alcalde and Inez are talking appear like wrought iron, which is appropriate for the setting. Much like Francavilla coloring the earlier incarnation of this series, Sendol Studios (however it's actually colored) uses bold reds in the background of the fight scenes, which make Snyder's jagged lines stand out more and heighten the violence. Wagner's scripts have been fine for the most part in this series, but just letting an artist with flair draw this one makes this issue far more interesting and involving than the previous six. I would LOVE if Snyder would draw the rest of this series. We shall see, shan't we?

I wonder where Snyder has been? Does anyone know?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Black Fire by Hernán Rodriguez (writer/artist), Troy Peteri (letterer), and Anna Rosen Guercio (translator). $24.95, 175 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I hate it when graphic novels come out this early in the year. This is dated 2011, but I won't consider it for the best of that year, because technically it didn't ship until 2012! Yes, I'm rigid that way! This looks pretty keen, actually - two soldiers retreating from Russia with Napoleon's army get sidetracked to a creepy town. Scary shit ensues!

The Dare Detectives! Case No. 1: The Snow-Pea Plot by Ben Caldwell (writer/artist), Bill Halliar (additional colorist), and Mike Mucci (additional inker). $24.95, 190 pgs, FC, Archaia.

If you liked Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman story in Wednesday Comics but hated the way it was printed (so tiny!), then check this out - it's big!!!!

The Annotated Sandman volume 1, edited by Leslie Klinger. $49.99, 559 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

I may have mentioned in the past I much I love annotated shit, so this was a no-brainer. You'll notice that the cover up there is cut off - this thing doesn't fit on my scanner. It's a foot square and weighs more than Habibi, which is saying something. My adorable assistant gives you an idea of how big it is:

I've already read the annotations for the first 8 issues (it contains issues #1-20). I can't recommend this for everyone (it is, after all, 50 bucks), but if you're someone who reads every single one of Jess Nevins' annotations of LoEG, for instance, you might like this.

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder volume 2: Lost and Gone Forever by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), John Severin (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $17.99, 109 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Yep, Hellboy-related comics. They're always good!

So it's a new year, and as I'm trying to shift to trades more and more, I'm going to start reviewing them more diligently. Everyone keeps raving about Uncanny X-Force, for instance, but I only have the first trade, so I'm way behind (and yes, the first trade is pretty darned good). When the second trade comes out (let's hope it's soon!), I'll review that, for instance, even if it's a bit behind the times. I'm going to try very hard to keep up and not get too far behind, but we'll see. What I'm going to do is do a review post of every trade I get in a month on the last day of that month. I might not make it in January, because I'm going out of town at the end of the month and I might not be back on the 31st, but I'll get it up on the 1st of February. I figure this is not a bad way to do it, because it gives me a little bit of time to read the trades I get (like the Witchfinder one) but still keeps me honest. 'Salright? 'Salright.

I've added some music to the magnificent little bastard, so let's check out The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle). I know you've missed groaning over my ridiculous lack of musical taste!

1. "Rock of Ages" - Def Leppard (1983) "I'm burnin', burnin', I got the fever, I know for sure, there ain't no cure"2. "Vampire" - People in Planes (2008) "Stick 'em in a casket next to mine, then we will see who is alive"3. "Los Angelenos" - Billy Joel (1974) "No one ever has to feel like a refugee"4. "Big Ten Inch Record" - Aerosmith (1975) "Last night I tried to tease her, I gave my love a little pinch"5. "Love" - The Cult (1985) "Gonna drive away in a big fast car, gonna drive away won't get too far"6. "In Too Deep" - Genesis (1986) "I can feel your eyes go through me, and I don't know why"17. "Hope Alone" - Indigo Girls (2002) "I remember when I met you and even from the start, I thought one day you'd probably just come home and break my heart"8. "Drunken Lullabies" - Flogging Molly (2002) "No colour left but black and white and soon will all turn grey"9. "Somebody That I Used to Know" - Elliott Smith (2000) "But it's your heart, not mine, that's scarred"10. "Come Back" - Pearl Jam (2006) "Under this broken roof, it's only rain that I feel"

1 Yes, I know. Go ahead. I can take it.

I did a year of Totally Random Movie Quotes, and I don't feel like doing them anymore. I did Totally Random Lyrics before that, and I don't think I'm going to go back to those. I suppose I don't have to do anything, but what fun is that? I thought about doing a Question of the Week, because things come up between my wife and I, and I'm often curious if they come up for other people, whether they're married or not. One thing that used to come up a lot with me was flirting. Most people who know me say I'm a very flirtatious, but I think of myself as just being nice to people. I can think of one time since I got married that I was actively flirting and I realized it as it was happening, but usually, I'm completely oblivious. So my Question is: Do you flirt? Obviously, if you're not in a relationship, I hope you do, but if you are in a relationship, do you still flirt? If so, are you aware of it or do other people have to point it out to you? I still don't think I flirt, but who the hell knows. I guess I'm not an authority on it!

I hope everyone had a nice New Year if you went out and partied. I, of course, stayed home (and watched Unknown with Liam Neeson, which wasn't very good but was entertaining enough for a night at home, I guess) because my daughter, who cares not what day it is, was going to wake me up at 7 o'clock on Sunday morning regardless of when I went to bed! I never liked staying up anyway, so I'm glad I can use her as an excuse. Anyway, I hope you younger, far hipper types had a blast! And have a nice weekend!

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